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Oregon City resident: Insist that your candidate understands that they work for the people.

Every night there's a plethora of campaign ads on TV highlighting the virtues of candidates seeking public office. Each candidate is vying for your vote. Bob Rubitschun

There are many testimonials endorsing the candidates and highlighting their past accomplishments. Have you ever noticed that they're always smiling, shaking hands, patting people on the back and listening to voters?

They want to project the image that they'd be humble public servants. However, the vast majority are disliked by their colleagues, don't listen to people who disagree with their positions and are intolerant of people who don't share their views.

I think it's time that Oregonians "wake up and smell the coffee." Most elected officials roll out their own agenda once they're in office. They feel empowered, by the voters who elected them, to do as they please. They often use the word "mandate" to justify their decisions.

This couldn't be further from the truth since most elections are decided by the narrowest of margins. What about the other half of the voters? The winner doesn't feel obligated to consider them in their policy decisions. As a result, elected officials wonder why people are so polar and civility is no longer practiced. The truth is, the only time politicians ask for your opinion is on Election Day.

I think it's important to do your homework before casting your vote. TV ads are not a reliable source of information. These ads are strategically crafted to appeal to a base of voters and often overstate or disguise the truth.

Have you noticed that incumbents are quick to accept credit for every good legislation but never admit to their numerous broken promises? Any candidate who professes to have ready solutions to address our plaguing social problems is not being truthful. These are complex problems, require much stakeholder input and have to be well executed to avoid unintended consequences.

A candidate with a record of critical thinking would be more likely to find public-supported solutions. Sadly, politicians say what voters want to hear because there's no accountability. My advice to voters is, "buyer beware!" If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Dig into the candidate's past and learn what they do when they're not in the public eye. Check out their endorsements and see if their values align with yours. Find out if they've personally profited from their political decisions. Vote for the most capable candidate rather than the party you're aligned with.

I say this because over time party values change. Decades ago, President John F. Kennedy challenged every American in his inauguration address with these historic words, "Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country." These powerful words created a movement of public service and thinking beyond yourself.

What makes his statement even more profound is President Kennedy was the leading liberal of his day; nowadays, this statement would get him labeled as a conservative. Today, candidates only talk about what the country can do for you; free benefits, more government services, subsidies, higher pay, regulatory controls, etc. This is socialism.

The government wants to be in control of every aspect of your life, after all, they believe they know what's best for you and your family. However, there's no free lunch, someone has to pay for these things. We can expect higher taxes to pay for our "freebies." Businesses will pass on their tax increases to consumers through higher priced goods and services. Be careful what you ask for; the road to big government is a slippery slope.

I'm not promoting any candidate or party. I think there's equal misrepresentation across all political parties. I ask that you exercise your right to vote, but do your due diligence before casting your vote.

A democracy is hard work, and it takes time to get it right. Know why you're voting for someone and be sure that they are committed to doing what they say they'll do. There's no perfect person for any position, but people have core values that will guide them in their decision-making.

Listening to the public is an essential part of the democratic experience and it shouldn't be limited to campaign "photo-op" meetings. It's how we become a more perfect democracy. Insist that your candidate understands that they work for the people. They're obligated to represent you and do the will of the people. Hold them accountable for their decisions.

As President Abraham Lincoln famously said, a democracy is "a government of the people, by the people, for the people." As a voter, you have the power to make a profound difference. Exercise your civic duty and vote!

Bob Rubitschun is a resident of Oregon City.

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